Following the ceremony, parish RCIA groups, including elect, their godparents, family members and RCIA team members had an opportunity to have their photo taken with the Bishop.
Following the ceremony, parish RCIA groups, including elect, their godparents, family members and RCIA team members had an opportunity to have their photo taken with the Bishop.
For Shawn Woodward, the motivator for him to join the Catholic Church was his family.

“It’s important for me and for them,” Woodward said of his wife and godparent, Vanessa, who attends St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, and their children who are in the parish religious education program.

PHOTO GALLERY: Rite of Election in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral

PHOTO GALLERY: Rite of Sending ceremonies in St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold

“I want to be a role model for my children in the faith,” Woodward said, noting that his journey of faith to the Church began two years ago when he joined the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Catholic Church’s official process for preparing persons to enter the Church.

“I’ve learned a lot and I see things more clearly,” he said of all he’s learned about the Church and her teachings.

“It’s pretty neat,” he said.

Woodward was among the 155 women, men and children from around the Diocese to take the next step in their journey to becoming Catholic when they gathered Feb. 26 with Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold, for the Rite of Election.

At the Rite of Election, the catechumens, supported by their sponsors, godparents, family members and parish ministers, declared their intention to become fully initiated “Catholic Christians” when they receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, which this year is April 8.

Others who will be taking a significant step in their journeys to the Catholic Church are the RCIA candidates, those who have been baptized as Catholics or in other Christian faiths, but did not have any further religious instruction in the Catholic faith.

This year, the Diocese reports having 62 non-Catholic candidates and 330 Catholic candidates who are taking part in the Call to Continuing Conversion in their parishes, marking the beginning of a time of intense spiritual preparation leading up to the Easter Vigil when they will receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.

‘What’s In a Name?’

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell reflected on what it means to become Catholic and to be known by that name.

“The name Catholic is a deep and profound identification of what you believe in, what you are called to be and, therefore, how you plan right now to live in this world,” he said.

“To become Catholic and being Catholic are two related but different things,” the Bishop said, then explained that to become Catholic is a process that has had a beginning and that will have an end at the Easter Vigil.

But there’s a challenge when it comes to being a Catholic, he said. “Living it all out in your daily lives, your everyday lives. Living out the truths of our faith with conviction. Adhering to the Church’s moral and social teachings when the world, society and culture urge you to do otherwise. Striving to follow the Lord Jesus’ command to love unconditionally.

“Being a Catholic is not aways easy or comfortable or convenient, but it is what you have chosen, and it is package deal,” he said.

Bishop O’Connell urged the catechumens to remember that they belong to Jesus Christ and that they have “elected to become part of his Church.

“Your name and your identity, as with all of the baptized in the Church, draw from the person of Jesus Christ,” Bishop O’Connell said.

”You are a Christian who has chosen and has been chosen to remain in Jesus Christ and his Church,” the Bishop said. “Become a Catholic and be a Catholic. The time has come for you to tell, and for you to show the world who you are and what you believe.”

Among the Elect

In the Rite of Election ceremony, Denise Contino, diocesan director of the Department of Catechesis, presented the catechumens to Bishop O’Connell. 

“Most Reverend Bishop, Easter is drawing near, so the catechumens, whom I now present to you, are completing their period of preparation,” she said. “They have found their strength in God’s grace and support our community’s prayer and example. Now they ask that after the celebration of the Scrutinies, they be allowed to participate in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.”

Bishop O’Connell asked the godparents and the assembly to affirm that the catechumens are sufficiently prepared to be enrolled among “the elect” (the name given to the catechumens following their participation in the Rite of Election). The catechumens declared their wish to enter fully into the life of the Church, and their names were read aloud as a parish RCIA team member presented each Book of the Elect.  The books had been signed by the catechumens earlier in the day in their local faith communities during Rite of Sending ceremonies.

Called By Name

While growing up, Glenn Pancoast said he never had experience with a religion but was introduced to the Catholic Church by his girlfriend, Meredith Brown, a member of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport.

Attending church and participating in the RCIA, “has been great! It’s been life changing,” Pancoast said, noting that he was intrigued to learn through RCIA about how to make the Sign of the Cross and its meaning.